There was a clear message during IDDBA 17 in Anaheim, California. The ever-evolving world of retail foodservice is changing even more rapidly right now. Younger shoppers, changing shopping habits, increased attention on food quality and more are causing shifts in the industry. IDDBA — the show and organization — is changing in an effort to better serve retailers and suppliers.

 “We are at a crossroads for our industry,” says Mike Eardley, president and chief executive officer of the IDDBA. “How do we get the whole Millennial generation involved in dairy, deli, bakery? We really need to get new talent and new people interestingly involved.”

One big step, according to Eardley, is to solidify the IDDBA’s role and the mission of the annual conference and expo to revolve around sharing expertise and mentoring young talent with insights and education.

“As (IDDBA speaker) Molly Fletcher said in her presentation, give the advice, get the sale. We want to be more than a trade show, and we think that’s the future,” Eardley says. “This year, we have the most individuals to attend our show (a record 10,280). We’re really thrilled.”

As one new feature, the Show and Sell Express offered ideas to engage with on-the-go shoppers and creative ideas for merchandising fresh concepts in the c-store format. It featured a milkshake vending machine and ways to enhance the customer’s c-store experience.

“There are over 150,000 convenience stores in the U.S. — one for every 2,000 people,” Eardley says. “Those folks have to start creating fresh foods connections, and they come here as a secret weapon to find out more about fresh food. Today, it’s all about eating occasions, and we are a lot less departmentalized. The consumer doesn’t care what department they shop anymore. They just want to eat.”

Expert Neighborhood was also a new added value to the show that gave attendees the opportunity to meet with industry experts and professionals one-on-one.  Experts included former CEO’s, company founders and principles, authors, consultants, and FDA employees. They talked with attendees about everything from regulations and menu calorie labeling to innovation and profitability. 

The New Product Showcase was a destination for attendees looking for unique and innovative trends all in one place. Exhibitors had the opportunity to personally merchandise in this special display. With 225 shelves of products, attendees got an all-encompassing look at the newest and latest cutting-edge products, packaging, and services. 

Show and Sell featured everything from demos on charcuterie, cheese and olives to grocerant-style areas where attendees could order food and have it delivered to their table. There was a 4-foot Lightning McQueen cake with a scene from his movie that evolved over the course of the show. It also featured a cheese pub with different pairings and chefs offering techniques and samples during demonstrations. The Show and Sell Workshop offered demonstrations of cooking and techniques by celebrity chefs and Show and Sell teams and interactive presentations by current industry professionals.

“We’ve got to up our game,” Eardley says of the importance of retail foodservice. “It’s the process, as much as the delivery of food. We can develop great food in small spaces and make it easier. At too many stores now, we don’t make it easy for customers to check out.”

IDDBA speaker Eddie Yoon, principal for The Cambridge Group and author of “Superconsumers: A Simple, Speedy, and Sustainable Path to Superior Growth,” recommends that supermarkets avoid “The Cheesecake Factory” menu because restaurants (the competition) are becoming more specialized. “Do a few things really well” in retail foodservice, he suggests, “and own it.” 

Building team spirit

“Successful teams work together,” says Jewel Hunt, IDDBA board chairman and group vice president of bakery for Albertsons. “When you can work and create a team environment where team members believe in you, anything is possible. 

“Our people and our team members are the best assets we have.”

According to bake magazine’s 2017 Retail Bakery Operations Study, labor remains a key concern for today’s bakery owner. When asked about their top business-related challenges, owners cited “labor costs” and “finding skilled labor” as No. 1 and No. 2. With the national unemployment rate dropping to 4.3 percent in May 2017, it continues to be a serious issue, and some industry leaders say they believe it’s only going to get worse. So how do you respond?

“We’re staring in the face of an impending labor shortage, and it’s bringing us to our knees,” employee expert and author Eric Chester told IDDBA attendees. 

The oldest Millennials are about to turn 37, and Chester says they are frustrating to understand for employers across the country. “They ask questions like, ‘I’ve been here three days. Why can’t I have your job?’” he says. “It turns out they are interviewing us!”

But Chester warns that complaining about Millennials will do nothing to ease the situation. You have to dig deeper into understanding what motivates those  working on the front lines of your business because “they are the face of your brand.” One radical departure of thought, he suggests, is stop focusing on pay by the hour. He showed a video of a young worker at a sandwich shop who complained that he wasn’t paid fairly when the place got super busy. Otherwise, his job was “chill.”

“When you’re paid by the hour, isn’t your goal to do as little work as possible?” Chester says. “What we don’t want is for them to be disengaged. For them, it’s more than about making money. It’s about meaning.”

If you want to win the war, it’s all about creating a one-of-a-kind experience at your bakery and remembering, as Chester says, that “employees make our business.”